Police are appealing for help to stop the ‘illegal’ slaughter of deer with high powered rifles in the Clogher Valley area.
It is understood the animals are being killed for their meat - which is then sold on the black market.
The PSNI has voiced concerns that such behaviour may be on the rise over the next few weeks as Burns night draws nearer.
They said: “It is believed that deer are being shot with high powered rifles at night from the road side using strong vehicle mounted lamps and being sold for their meat.
“With Burns night on the 25th of January, it is believed that this illegal activity may increase during the next three weeks.
“Any information dial 101 and ask for your message to be passed to Constable McMurray at Clogher Valley Neighbourhood team. Vehicle registrations will be particularly valuable.”
“Shooting from the road is illegal as is shooting during the hours of darkness,” they added. “A high velocity bullet discharged into the darkness can travel in excess of a mile and the dangers are obvious.”
Alarmed at the reports, UUP MLA Rosemary Barton has urged local restaurants and suppliers “to only purchase venison from registered suppliers”.
It is understood unregistered meat can be dangerous, especially if the animals are old or graze on land shared by horses.
Certain species of deer are also protected.
“These poachers are targeting deer indiscriminately showing no regard for the safety of the public or for the age or gender of the animal or the suffering that is caused if it is wounded,” said Mrs Barton.
“Standing by a roadside, in the dark using high velocity weapons poses a major risk to safety as those holding the gun are blind as to who or what may be in proximity to the animals. I therefore urge the public to contact the PSNI if they see anything suspicious.”
‘Shot to order by skilled persons’
Urging the public to help stop “the illegal slaughter and butchering” of deer in Clogher Valley, DUP MLA Lord Maurice Morrow said he believes the animals are being “shot to order”.
“The illegal slaughter and butchering of animals for entering the human food chain, has no accountability or traceability,” he said. “Anyone doing this is dealing in the dangers of black-market flesh, with no health and safety supervision or track record of an animal’s origin.
“I would call on anyone who sees or hears suspicious activity, including gunfire in the hours of darkness or areas being lit with high voltage lamps being shone from vehicles, to alert police at once.
“This is not some fun adventure in the dark. It is highly dangerous, irresponsible activity which must be thwarted.”
The PSNI and Gardai are aware.